“You Meant It for Evil, but God for Good” (Genesis 50:20


I. Introduction. A. Orientation. 1. Last week, we saw how the Lord uses a variety of things to motivate us to move forward. a. He uses things that are negative: (i) Examples of His judgment – the punishment on Adam, the flood of Noah, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the judgments on Egypt. (ii) Negative motivation is very powerful: if a vicious attack dog is chasing you, you will certainly put effort into running to a safe place. (iii) In the same way, if God threatens you with discipline, and especially if He does with hell, you will run for Christ and away from your sins. b. But He also uses positive motivations: Promises of blessing and reward. (i) The Lord continually renewed His covenant with the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (ii) He did this for the sake of His plan to bring His Son into the world – the One whose work would be the basis of these promises. (iii) But He also did this to confirm His promises to strengthen them. (iv) Positive motivations are a little more subtle – Edwards said that men are more concerned to avoid pain than they are to miss pleasure – but promises certainly still motivate. (v) He holds out to you the promise of eternal life and blessing to you, to encourage you to continue to forsake your sins, trust in Him, and do His works. 2. The Lord intends to remind you of these things often. a. Every day, as you read His Word and pray. b. Every week, as you attend the worship services and the Word is read and preached. c. Every month, as you celebrate the Lord’s Supper. d. He wants to move your heart – to holy love, to holy fear – to keep you moving in the right direction. e. This is one of the ways He disciplines you: (i) What are you doing when your discipline your children? Training, correcting, discipling them. (ii) What is God doing when He disciplines you? Training, correcting, discipling you. (iii) “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7).

2 (iv) This is one of His marks of ownership, or sonship: “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (v. 8). (v) Far from resenting this, you should see it as a great blessing. B. Preview. 1. This morning, we’re going to consider another way the Lord disciplines/trains us: adversity. a. This is something the Lord frequently does. b. It’s not easy to go through difficult times, but you need to remember that when you do, they are all a part of God’s plan. (i) To teach you things you need to know. (ii) Not the least of which is that the Lord will use all the adversity He brings for your good. 2. We come now to consider the life of Joseph, the hard times he went through at the hands of his brothers, Potiphar’s wife and the chief cup bearer, as part of God’s plan, to see how He overruled their evil to bring about His good purposes. a. First, let’s consider the difficulties the Lord put Joseph through. b. Second, how the Lord worked these things together for good. c. Finally, how we can apply this to our lives. II. Sermon. A. First, let’s consider the difficult times the Lord put Joseph through. 1. The first thing we see is the hatred of his brothers. a. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons because he was the son of Rachel, his most loved wife, who had died giving birth to Benjamin. b. This love brought the gift of the multi-colored coat, but also the hatred of his brothers. c. Their hatred was further aggravated by Joseph’s updates to his father of his brothers doings, and especially by his dreams: (i) First he dreamed that he and his brothers were binding sheaves, and their sheaves surrounded Joseph’s sheaf and bowed down to it. (ii) In his second dream, the sun, moon, and eleven stars all bowed down to him. (iii) Having these dreams was bad enough, but he also told them to his brothers: apparently, Joseph was naïve regarding his brothers’ disposition towards him. d. Finally, they had reached the point where they had had enough. (i) Jacob sent Joseph out again to see how his brothers were faring, but when they saw him coming, they plotted to kill him. (ii) Reuben was the only one who didn’t agree with their plan. He wanted to throw him into a pit, hoping later to rescue him. (iii) When Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his robe, threw him into a pit, but then sold him to some Midianite traders.

3 (iv) To cover their crime, they dipped his coat in blood and took it to their father with the story that Joseph had been killed by wild beasts. (v) Now what motivated them to do this? (a) It was pride, envy, and the desire for revenge. (b) They meant it for evil, but as we’ll see, God meant it for good. 2. Second, we see the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife. a. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard, and quickly became Potiphar’s most trusted servant. b. But when his wife tried to get Joseph to lie with her and he refused, she falsely accused him of trying to violate her, and he was thrown into prison, where he remained for some time. c. Why did Potiphar’s wife slander Joseph and convince her husband to throw him into prison? d. It was because of her own lust, because of her fear of being found out by her husband as an unfaithful wife. e. She meant it for evil to cover her own sins, but God meant it for good. 3. Third, we see the chief cupbearer’s betrayal of Joseph. a. Joseph quickly became a favorite of the jailer, and he committed all the prisoners into Joseph’s care. b. After some time had passed, Pharaoh imprisoned both his chief cupbearer and baker. c. One night, the Lord gave both of them dreams that left them a bit concerned the next day. When Joseph knew their concern came from their dreams, he asked them to explain. d. Joseph then interpreted: The chief cupbearer would be restored to favor in three days, while the chief baker would be killed in three days. e. Joseph asked the chief cupbearer to remember him and speak to Pharaoh on his behalf when he was restored, but he kept quiet and Joseph remained in prison for another two years. f. Why did the chief cupbearer forget the kindness Joseph showed him? Probably because of self-love: he didn’t want anything to get in the way of his restoration to Pharaoh’s favor. g. He meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. B. Second, let’s consider how the Lord worked these things together for good. 1. Finally, Pharaoh had two dreams: a. The first was of the seven gaunt and ugly cows that ate up seven fat and sleek cows; the second of seven thin and scorched ears of corn eating up seven good ears. b. No one in the land could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. But the cupbearer remembered that Joseph could, and so he confessed his transgression of forgetting Joseph and recommended him to Pharaoh (probably to gain some favor now in Pharaoh’s eyes).

4 c. Joseph was brought to Pharaoh, and the Lord revealed through him that seven good and plentiful years were coming, followed by seven terrible years of famine. d. He counseled Pharaoh to store up food during the seven good years, so that there would be enough for the seven bad years. e. He also counseled Pharaoh to appoint a man to oversee this work, which he did – Joseph. f. God was working Joseph’s adversity for good. 2. The seven years of plenty came and Joseph stored the food up in the cities. But then the seven years of famine came and all the land became dependent on Egypt for food, including Jacob and his sons. a. It had been at least 10 years since Joseph had been sold as a slave into Egypt, when Jacob sent his ten sons into Egypt to buy grain. b. When Joseph saw them, he recognized them immediately, but they didn’t recognize him. He immediately began to test them by accusing them of being spies and held one of them as prisoner until they could prove their story and bring back their youngest brother. c. After a while, Jacob told them to return for more food, but they couldn’t unless they returned with Benjamin. Jacob finally let them go when Judah promised to be surety for Benjamin. d. On the second trip, Joseph had his servant plant a cup in Benjamin’s bag to accuse him of stealing, further to test his brothers. He wanted to see if they had changed since the time they had betrayed and sold him into Egypt. e. When he threatened to keep Benjamin, Judah said he would take his place, because he had agreed to be surety for the boy and because he couldn’t bear to see what would happen to his father if Benjamin didn’t return with him. f. Joseph was overwhelmed. He saw the Lord had humbled his brothers, and so he not only revealed himself to them, but invited his father and brothers and their whole households to come down to Egypt, so that he could take care of them. g. After they had been there for many years, and Jacob died, the brothers thought Joseph would take his revenge. So they came to Joseph and told him that before their father died, he requested that Joseph forgive their transgressions against them. h. Joseph responded in the only appropriate godly way: (i) He didn’t seek revenge, but he did speak to them very plainly. (ii) You meant it for evil – you are without excuse. But God meant it for good: He planned this to preserve His people. (iii) This also helped Joseph forgive them the first time, and it helped him to continue to do so. (iv) God worked Joseph’s adversity for good. C. In closing, let’s consider a few ways we can apply this. 1. First, remember that God is sovereign. a. He is in absolute control over absolutely everything that happens to you.

5 b. If that wasn’t the case, Joseph could not have said that God meant these things for good – this is something God did. 2. Second, realize that in God’s plan sometimes bad things will happen to you at the hands of your brethren, as well as those outside the church. a. Joseph’s brothers were a part of God’s church: those in the church may injure you; perhaps they already have. Just because someone is a Christian doesn’t mean they’re perfect. You need to be patient. b. Certainly, you can also expect to be injured by those in the world. 3. But third, know when they do that God has ordained that injury or adversity for some good purpose. a. He led Joseph into slavery at the hands of his people to save His people. He used their evil to bring good results. b. He has undoubtedly ordained difficult times, adversity, and injuries to come into your life as well. But realize that even though this is true, He will work them all together for your good. Paul tells us that the promise applies to you as well: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). c. This doesn’t excuse what they did to you; but it does give you hope that there will be a good outcome. d. The Lord may even bring those who injured you someday to come and ask your forgiveness. But even if He doesn’t, if they’re Christ’s, He paid for that sin; if they’re not then one day they will pay in hell. 4. Finally, remember why the Lord is willing to do this for you: a. He does this for the sake of His Son, whom He loves, and through whom He loves you. b. Joseph’s life also reminds us of this: (i) As he was rejected by his brothers, so Jesus was rejected by His people. (ii) As Joseph was handed over to the Gentiles and then cast into a dungeon, so Jesus was handed over to the Gentiles to be imprisoned, mocked, scourged, crucified, and then put to death. (iii) But as Joseph was raised up and exalted over all of Egypt next only to Pharaoh so that He might save His people, Jesus was raised up and exalted to the Father’s right hand and has been given Him authority over the whole world so that He might save you. (iv) He died for you even when you hated Him – as Joseph’s brothers hated him – but He was willing to do so because of His love for you. (v) If you know this love of Christ is yours this morning, then you also know He will work everything together for your good. (vi) But if you don’t know it, there’s only one way to receive it: you must do what Joseph’s brothers did: come to Jesus, admit your guilt, repent of your sins, and ask for His mercy. Come to Jesus this morning and live. Amen.

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